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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hot or Cold?

People like to ask me how I keep my rabbits warm in the winter. After moving to the mountains, where it actually does snow sometimes (I'm including a picture of last year's "blizzard" in Graham), I understand why they ask.

I explain to them that the rabbits are living in a building, I up their feed a little to help them have that extra bit of energy to burn to keep warmer, and of course, they have fur coats!

"Is that all?! Wouldn't they still be cold? Why don't you put a heater out with them?"

I feel it would be extremely dangerous and irresponsible of me to put a cheap heater outside for the rabbits- or the multiple ones it would take to heat my rabbitry. With hay, wool and fur flying around, all it takes is one unlucky wisp to make it's way to the heater and I would lose everyone. With rabbits being built to withstand the cold, I'm unwilling to take that chance. I do my part by keeping them out of the wind, and on super cold nights, giving the smaller ones boxes to cuddle in. I know some breeders have barns that are climate controlled, or have very expensive heaters that prevent things from getting in there and causing fires. To this I say- I'm very jealous! As I don't have the money for either of these things, I will not use a heater I got for a nickel at a yard sale.

The biggest fear of a bunny breeder isn't winter- it's summer. It's true, winter causes it's own problems- kits that are born on the wire, or hop out of the nestbox too soon may end up frozen to death. As their caretakers, we sometimes have to switch their bottles to crocks and water more often, to combat the ice. But rabbits are better able to cope with the cold, especially when in an enclosed area.

In the summer, you run the risk of heat stroke. That nice fur coat that keeps them cozy in the winter is a liability when temperatures top 100. Pregnant does pull WAY too much fur, in an attempt to cool themselves off. I've had to "skim" hair off a nest, worrying the babies would overheat. They go through their water much more quickly, and a rabbit without water in extreme heat doesn't lead to good things.

In the heat, the flies are worse. No matter how clean you keep your cages, it seems as soon as a rabbit uses the bathroom everyone bug and it's neighbor are there. Flies lead to their own problems, like flystrike.

Of course, setting up cheap fans are not a way to keep them cool- this can also lead to fires, when the hair makes it's way in to the fan. I would rather put in the extra effort of checking the rabbits more often, opening the doors to ventilation, and even icing down ears or bringing inside someone having a hard time coping with the heat. Again, you folks with the climate controlled barns, and fans with motors encased to prevent debris from catching fire-I'm jealous!

Thanks for Reading!
Keep's Rabbitry

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